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Differing definitions of "Christian"

Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Leslie » 17 May 2009, 22:30

john wrote:
Leslie wrote:But if we spent a lot of forum time and space talking about commonalities, then after the OP there would pretty much be just a Dufflepuddlian chorus of agreement, which would get dull pretty quickly.


Please don't think I was saying that discussing differences is wrong. I believe that discussing different opinions about anything is part of what makes all conversation interesting, and it helps us learn (and possibly change our opinions). I was merely making an observation in response to postodave's comment.

No, I didn't think that at all, and I'm agreeing with you (however dull that may be!) A lively tension of opinion and thought is what leads to the discovery of truth.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Leslie » 17 May 2009, 23:06

rusmeister wrote:I think this reveals a lack of understanding of how "absolutists" see things in general (those who believe there IS absolute truth and that we DO have some revelation about it). To us 'absolutists (as opposed to 'relativists' I suppose), some things are NOT opinions based on faith. They are revealed truth (do I need to capitalize that?), and the thing that mind-boggles them is how much in which Christendom was in agreement on about so many things for so many centuries until VERY recently is n ow denied.

Thus, it is not about tearing down others' opinions, much less other people on a personal level - which often translates into the sin of pride - but IS about establishing that Truth. It is precisely that there is only one God, and that He has revealed certain things about Himself, to which claims to the contrary are actual falsehood, rather than opinion.


I firmly believe that there is absolute truth "out there" and that God has revealed some truth to human beings. But, I think it is a huge mistake to assume that Christians of the past understood that truth better simply because they came first chronologically. I have no doubt that first-century Christians were mistaken about a great many things, just as Christians of today are. Chronological snobbery can work both ways, and it is never a valid argument for anything. And we have no good reason to think that revelation through the Holy Spirit ended in the first century; God has not stopped working.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Tuke » 17 May 2009, 23:25

john wrote:Tuke, I truly mean no offense whatsoever in any of my comments. I was trying to describe how things appear to me. With multiple Christian churches, all teaching different things (some of them contradictory)...they simply can't all be right. Even those who just say they follow the Bible don't agree with each other on (for instance) how somebody should be baptized, or even if it's necessary at all.
I just simply don't understand, that's all.
No offense taken. I hope you won't be offended when I say that it's beginning to sound like you're saying that you're going to stay on the sidelines until you can identify the perfect church. That's why I complimented you on your previous post:
It's no wonder there are so many churches calling themselves Christian. Seems like they're all just fumbling around in the dark, doing their best to figure out what God wants of them until (presumably) Jesus comes down and sets them all straight.
There never has been a perfect church on Earth. Remember, the first church included perfidious treasurer Judas Iscariot and Christ denying Peter. The first church board (later Apostles) wanted to fire-bomb a town for perceived doctrinal failings. All the disciples and apostles disagreed to varying degrees at different times. And the original church suffered all this turmoil under the auspices of the ablest Rabbi of all time!
Disagreements can be unpleasant, but indifference is far worse. It's better to fumble in the darkness searching for the light than to give up trying to understand what God wants at all. And that's why He commanded us to "not hold aloof from our church meetings, as some do." Hebrews X.25 (Phillips)
There's only been one man in the history of the world who perfectly understood the Scriptures and that's why he's called our High Priest, worthy of our praise and trust. We wait patiently for him to return and set us all straight, honoring him with our faith in striving to understand. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.... without faith it is impossible to please him." Hebrews XI.1-6
Last edited by Tuke on 18 May 2009, 16:42, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Adam Linton » 18 May 2009, 01:06

john wrote:
Tuke wrote:These evolutions or denominations may even have been anticipated and sanctioned by the Lord.


But the bible says God isn't the author of confusion, doesn't it? Surely, if God exists, then God is one type of being, requires one form of worship, and expects one set of rules to be followed.[...]


With respect, I don't know if this really follows.

Maybe it's because of my own faith context (which does not believe that "exclusive franchise" through any one one specific church/denomination, with its disctinct practice--is how God works), I myself don't see why diversity and even disagreement have to mean "confusion." Maybe differing kinds of worship and differing sets of rules could be--at least to some extent--be part of God's plan. Unity does not have to mean uniformity.

This does not mean, however, that the identity of Christianity is simply up for grabs, either. But the question of "which church should I be a part of" is profoundly re-framed if one believes that it could be a good thing that there are more than one--not speaking here of the mystical unity of the Church as a whole that is deeper than the specific, institutional manifestations.

Having said that (and I offer this from my own tradition's articulation), if I had to name some critical defining elements of "Christian" in the corporate sense, I would name the following:

1) The Old and New Testaments received--uniquely--as the Holy Scriptures;

2) Either use of or assent to the two Historic Creeds (Nicene [in either Western or Eastern forms] and Apostles');

3) Baptism and Eucharist administered with use of the historic words of institution and elements (and in the elements I am not going to worry about the wine vs. grape juice at Communion issue); and

4) Some form of church discipline and order providing accoutability and connection.

Those who know things Anglican will recognize that I've pretty much adapted this straight from our classic "Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral," 1886/1888. Maybe it's not perfect (and I especially adapted #4) but I think it rather good at articulating classic shared centralities while allowing for much appropriate, needful diversity, too.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby john » 18 May 2009, 01:39

Tuke wrote:No offense taken. I hope you won't be offended when I say that it's beginning to sound like you're saying that you're going to stay on the sidelines until you can identify the perfect church.


Ah, I see. I thought you were being sarcastic. :)

I should clarify that I am not staying on the sidelines, waiting for a Christian church I can identify with. Since leaving the LDS faith 11 years ago, I've never once thought to myself "okay, which church is right for me". Quite the contrary, the experience has allowed me to broaden my definitions and not limit myself to only the realm of what used to be comfortable (and equally uncomfortable) with.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby rusmeister » 18 May 2009, 02:39

john wrote:
rusmeister wrote:I think this reveals a lack of understanding of how "absolutists" see things in general (those who believe there IS absolute truth and that we DO have some revelation about it). To us 'absolutists (as opposed to 'relativists' I suppose), some things are NOT opinions based on faith. They are revealed truth (do I need to capitalize that?), and the thing that mind-boggles them is how much in which Christendom was in agreement on about so many things for so many centuries until VERY recently is n ow denied.

Thus, it is not about tearing down others' opinions, much less other people on a personal level - which often translates into the sin of pride - but IS about establishing that Truth. It is precisely that there is only one God, and that He has revealed certain things about Himself, to which claims to the contrary are actual falsehood, rather than opinion.


I know far more about "absolutists" than you may realize. Don't forget my religious background. I was taught that you're all wrong and that my understanding of God and our path to heaven is the only right one. I know about "revealed Truth" as well, and yet, when all is said an done, Russ, it's still just an opinion based on faith. There is no proof other than what you may feel you know to be truth.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not knocking faith. I have faith in a lot of things that I either don't have proof of or don't understand. But I, too, believe in Truth. Just as I said...I believe that, that if God exists, God is a specific something (whatever that something might be) that has a plan for us. I don't believe that God is whatever you may want it to be. No matter how one may wish to live their life, or however they be believe about something...there's a church with their name it.

So, I do believe in discovering what the Truth is. However...the Truth that once I wholeheartedly believed in turned out to be a load of rubbish. Naturally, that makes one question just about everything. It doesn't mean, in my mind, that God doesn't exist -- but it does mean that I truly believe that nobody can really know what God is and what is expected of us. You can believe it...but you absolutely cannot know it.


II get that your experience was hard. (I, too, was raised Baptist, consciously - and some would say fanatically - embraced it as an older teenager, and also came to the conclusion that it was nonsense and spent the following 20 years in a not-caring dead zone.)

My Mom was LDS for several years, FWIW (I was already an adult). I perforce learned some things about it.

when all is said an done, Russ, it's still just an opinion based on faith. There is no proof other than what you may feel you know to be truth.


This is the only bone of contention. To the absolutist it is not an opinion at all. Indeed, I find it interesting that you see a dichotomy of opinion vs truth. Are those really the only two options? I think it not difficult to find many things that cannot be proved in an empirical sense, and yet we would acknowledge to be true, or at least extraordinarily likely to be true. A person can experience something objective and later not be able to 'prove' it. You can believe him or not, but that doesn't make it necessarily subjective and certainly not merely opinion. So the things that are NOT based on feeling are the things we can try to show or pass on. Apologetics is one way of doing it, and Lewis was pretty good at it. But if you (abstract, plural 'you') try to box in arguments for faith as being either merely scientific propositions or merely subjective feelings, you'll not understand how people who experience that will not agree with you that it is merely opinion. I agree that I can't 'prove' it to you. But it is not merely opinion.

Christ is risen! (Which, if you get the implications, and make the ultimately simple choice to believe, is the best news imaginable.)

Oh, and on the OP, see the Nicene Creed (as originally published). It's that simple.
"Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there's never more than one."
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby cyranorox » 18 May 2009, 16:47

The anglican criteria look good from here, but this:
I am not going to worry about the wine vs. grape juice at Communion issue

stopped me cold.

Who is offering grape juice!?!? And what could be the supposed justification for this practice? Christ himself drank and blessed wine, even made wine miraculously. Christ approves of wine; who presumes to disapprove?
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Tuke » 18 May 2009, 17:04

john wrote:.... I was trying to describe how things appear to me. With multiple Christian churches, all teaching different things (some of them contradictory)...they simply can't all be right. Even those who just say they follow the Bible don't agree with each other on (for instance) how somebody should be baptized, or even if it's necessary at all.
I just simply don't understand, that's all.
Fair enough. Are you backing off your previous statement that "The darn thing [Bible] even contradicts itself!"?
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Adam Linton » 18 May 2009, 17:10

cyranorox wrote:The anglican criteria look good from here, but this:
I am not going to worry about the wine vs. grape juice at Communion issue

stopped me cold.

Who is offering grape juice!?!? And what could be the supposed justification for this practice? Christ himself drank and blessed wine, even made wine miraculously. Christ approves of wine; who presumes to disapprove?


Anglicans do not use grape juice at Eucharist, but grape wine. And we certainly do not disapprove of wine!

But many protestant churches, especially in America, do use grape juice at Communion (Baptists, Pentecostals, and many Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians do, as well)---and that practice being so common I did not want to exclude them from the stated criteria in the question at hand.

Thing is, since yeast cells live on the grape skins, the moment the juice is pressed the fermentation imediately begins--hence it's hard to say when it starts being "wine." This is why even the Roman Catholic Church authorizes the use of "mustum" (which is grape juice, virtually) at the Mass.

And, just to be clear, what I listed was an adaptation, for purposes of this discussion, of the Anglican criteria articulated in our Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral, 1886/1888. That original is very much worth looking at, as well.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Tuke » 18 May 2009, 17:15

cyranorox wrote:Who is offering grape juice!?!? .... Christ approves of wine; who presumes to disapprove?
Alcoholics Anonymous and most churches. :o)
Many missionaries have used Coca-Cola, for sanitation as well as convenience.
Last edited by Tuke on 19 May 2009, 14:39, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby john » 18 May 2009, 17:26

Tuke wrote:Fair enough. Are you backing off your previous statement that "The darn thing [Bible] even contradicts itself!"?


Heh. I see...you realize I'm not really interested in converting, and now I'm being held accountable for my statement. :wink:

There are multiple lists of contradictions found online, along with an equal number of explanations, and then more rebuttals to those explanations. Just look them up. Every resource has to be judged by the source, and the basis of your judgment depends on your bias.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Tuke » 18 May 2009, 17:37

john wrote:... and now I'm being held accountable for my statement. :wink:
There are multiple lists of contradictions found online, along with an equal number of explanations....
Just look them up....
Thanks anyway, but I wanted your testimony. It's good practice for The Judgement Day when we all have to give our own account. :smile:
Last edited by Tuke on 18 May 2009, 17:40, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby john » 18 May 2009, 17:39

Tuke wrote:It's good practice for The Judgement Day when we all have to give our own account. :smile:


Duly noted. ;)
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Tuke » 18 May 2009, 17:51

john wrote:Duly noted. ;)
Thank you for your patience. It means more to me than you probably know. Ezekiel III.17-21 ; XXXIII.8-9
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby postodave » 18 May 2009, 21:17

Russ said:
This is the only bone of contention. To the absolutist it is not an opinion at all. Indeed, I find it interesting that you see a dichotomy of opinion vs truth. Are those really the only two options? I think it not difficult to find many things that cannot be proved in an empirical sense, and yet we would acknowledge to be true, or at least extraordinarily likely to be true. A person can experience something objective and later not be able to 'prove' it. You can believe him or not, but that doesn't make it necessarily subjective and certainly not merely opinion. So the things that are NOT based on feeling are the things we can try to show or pass on. Apologetics is one way of doing it, and Lewis was pretty good at it. But if you (abstract, plural 'you') try to box in arguments for faith as being either merely scientific propositions or merely subjective feelings, you'll not understand how people who experience that will not agree with you that it is merely opinion. I agree that I can't 'prove' it to you. But it is not merely opinion.

And I agree - although I don't think scientific propositions are purely objective and certainly cannot be proved. Knowing is a mysterious business and does not depend on knowing how you know - even though trying to figure that out can be interesting and helpful. We really don't know how science works as a form of knowledge and the differences on that among scientists and philosophers are as great as the differences between Christians.

I think the most anyone can do is to point at something and say 'I find God here'. The feelings may be subjective in so far as they are the feelings of a subject but they are about something that does not feel subjective. Most knowing seems to be something like that. Lewis once said that we can give those outside the Church the idea that belief is a kind of hypothesis because for the sake of apologetics we treat it as such. What an apologist is doing is saying 'try looking at it like this: does that make sense' and he can add 'if it does try living it and it will get clearer.' But he will often receive the reply - 'no it doesn't make sense to me' - and then the best answer is often okay then try looking at it like this. At this point the frustrated rationalist screams, 'defend your original position!' and the apologist says 'but it didn't work for you so I dropped it.'
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